Canadian Olympic bobsleigh champion Justin Kripps retiring after 16-year career
Brakemen Ryan Sommer and Cam Stones also call it a career
Justin Kripps had no lofty dreams of standing on the Olympic medal podium when he first climbed into a bobsled 16 years ago.
"I kind of just wanted to get as good as I could get," Kripps said. "It really was just about the journey, the challenge of becoming the best I could at something. And it led to so much."
Kripps' illustrious career led him to Olympic gold in the two-man with Alex Kopacz in 2018, and then bronze in the four-man at the Beijing Olympics in February, with Ryan Sommer, Cam Stones and Benjamin Coakwell.
"I felt like I had accomplished more than I set out to and I sort of had this realization that, now that I've done the four-man medal, and I'd done it with that team where we stayed the four years, and it was such a Cinderella story, and then having a gold in the two-man, it was just kind of like: where's the motivation going to come from to work as hard as I would have to for another four years?" Kripps said in a phone interview. "I want to put that energy somewhere else."
Kripps, who said he'd spent most of Thursday reminiscing as he read messages and comments about his retirement on social media, also has a pair of silver medals and three bronze at world championships.
Safety, he said, had also become a concern after a couple of crashes this past season. The fear of permanent damage was tough to shake.
"You kind of realize as you get older that the sport is a little dangerous," Kripps said. "I remember one of my pilot coaches years ago telling me, 'You'll know when it's time to retire, because you'll be thinking less about how to get down the track the fastest and thinking more about getting home safely.' I kind of had those thoughts this year a little bit.
"I did a little thinking about it. I've had a very long career, and I've gotten out pretty much unscathed and accomplished a lot. And it feels like the perfect exit point."
WATCH | Kripps wins 2018 Olympic gold:
Kripps took some time to let the dust settle post-Olympics before making his decision.
"Obviously a lot of emotions go into [the Olympics], and it's not the best time to make big life decisions," he said.
Kripps & Co. won bronze in Beijing in thrilling fashion, entering the fourth and final run with an 0.08-second lead over the fourth-place Germans. Their lead at one interval shrunk to 0.01, but they held on for bronze by a sliver — 0.06 seconds. He and Kopacz, who's retired, tied a German sled for gold in 2018.
WATCH | Kripps takes bronze in Beijing:
Kripps said he'll miss those shared moments with his crew the most.
"Definitely competing with my teammates, just having that shared goal and going into those races, battling with the Germans for the podium, just that sense of achievement and accomplishment with your friends and teammates when you do well," he said.
Sommer, a 28-year-old from White Rock, B.C., took up bobsleigh after a "random dare" to attend a recruitment camp while he was fighting fires in Northern Alberta.
It "ended with an Olympic medal and a lifetime worth of memories," he posted on Instagram, saying that competing for Canada was something he'd dreamed of since watching the Olympics on TV as a child.
"Celebrating the highs, and grinding through the lows, with my teammates, are some of the things I will miss the most when leaving this sport," he wrote.
Stones, a 30-year-old from Oshawa, Ont., wrote on Instagram under a photo of the four-man crew in Beijing: "What a good one to end on. . . On to the next chapter.
"Tschuss!" he added, the German word for "bye!"
Kripps said he and his wife Breanne are still planning their future. They live in Calgary, but his wife's work — she's a dancer — has taken them to Vancouver quite a bit recently.
"I'm exploring some different options," he said. "I definitely want to look at staying involved in sport in some capacity. I feel like I had such amazing experience, I'd like to pass on the knowledge and experiences that I got and try to help the future generation have a similar experience to what I had."